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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, February 6, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest Host: Chris Hayes
Guests: Michael Beschloss, Celinda Lake, Josh Rogin

CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: You know, I was raised in the Bronx, but I
was raised by a dad from Chicago, and grew up a Bears fans. So, I was
wishing the Giants well, but I didn`t have my heart in it, the same way my
fellow New Yorkers did.

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: All right. Well, I had to go for the
Giants, even though I told Rachel that I hoped her team won, but whatever.

HAYES: I`m feeling bad for Rachel.

Thanks, Ed.

And thanks at home for staying with us for the next hour. Rachel, as
you have noticed by now, has the night off.

All right. So, when you think about the most iconic lines in American
movie history, you think the memorable quotes in the history of cinema,
somewhere near the stop of the list probably sits this specific 12-second
clip right here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SIRENS)

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: Go ahead, make my day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That is, of course, the great Clint Eastwood, playing the role
of Dirty Harry in his 1983 film "Sudden Impact": go ahead and make my day -
- five words that have lived on in perpetuity in American life and culture
ever since they were first spoken on the big screen.

When Clint Eastwood said that in 1983, there happen to be a fellow
actor occupying the Oval Office at the time who recognized the power of
that line, he decided to make it his own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have my veto pen drawn and
ready for any tax increase that Congress might even think of sending up. I
have one thing to say to the tax increases: go ahead, make my day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Ronald Reagan was apparently so fond of the whole Clint
Eastwood "make my day" thing, he even put his own spin on that line from
time to time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: If we liberate the energies and imagination of the American
people, and allow them the wherewithal to build their dreams, America will
be a dynamo leading the world in the 1990s, and a new era of prosperity,
the likes of which this world has never before seen. That is our goal.
And that`s our challenge.

I might put it this way. Go ahead, America, make my decade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: This was perfect for Republicans in the 1980s, because Clint
Eastwood`s character, Dirty Harry, was an outside character who appealed to
some essential conservative instinct in the American psyche. He was this
tough "make my day" law and order vigilante guy.

Didn`t hurt of course that Clint Eastwood himself, the actor, the
human being, is famously very Republican in his own political leanings. He
told the "L.A. Times" back in November that he`s voted Republican in every
single presidential election dating back to 1952 and the only time he was
tempted to break ranks with the Republican Party was with Ross Perot in
1992.

For conservatives constantly whining about the evil liberal elite in
Hollywood pushing its cultural filth upon the innocent folk, they could
always rely on two people who had their back -- B-list actor, who would
become president and defeat, intentional air quotes, "the Soviet Empire,"
and Dirty Harry.

Ronald Reagan, if you were still alive, would be 101 years old today.
The reason that Ronald Reagan is so beloved by conservatives has less to do
with the particulars of his policy achievements, such as they were, than
two things like: A, his political success, and B, his unabashed torch
carrying for the idea of American exceptionalism.

In the conservative mind, America under Jimmy Carter was on the
precipice of permanent decline. We were hobbled, we were weak, we had been
emasculated -- and then enrolled Ronald Reagan to boldly reassert American
supremacy in the world.

Now, that wasn`t necessarily the experience of the population at
large. To the population at large, what happened was: America was in a
terrible recession at the end of Jimmy Carter`s first term in 1980,
historically high inflation. And we were then experiencing an economic
recovery in 1984 when Ronald Reagan`s first term was up. And in both
cases, the presidential voting was essentially the reflection of the
economic reality of the day.

The economy stunk in 1980. So, Ronald Reagan won. The economy was
getting better in 1984, so Reagan won again.

This year, in 2012, the central rhetorical challenge that Barack Obama
has faced and faces now is not just a nation recovering from a financial
crisis, but a national psyche that once again is haunted by the specter of
permanent American decline.

For his likely opponent in the fall, the way to run against Barack
Obama is clear, blame him entirely for the economic difficulties and
insinuate -- sometimes not so softly -- that if reelected, Barack Obama
will guarantee irreparable damage to American supremacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This campaign is about more
than replacing a president. It`s about saving the soul of America.
President Obama and I have very different visions of America.

President Obama wants to fundamentally transform America, and make it
something perhaps we wouldn`t recognize.

I want to restore to America the values and principles that made us
the hope of the Earth. And I`ll do it.

If you want to make this election about restoring American greatness,
then I hope you`ll join us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Mitt Romney promises to very explicitly, quote, "restore
American greatness." That message is pretty simple and straightforward for
Mr. Romney.

But as we enter into what is more or less the general election season,
the central rhetorical challenge for Barack Obama is telling the story of
his presidency that speaks to this dual-layered anxiety that`s out there,
an anxiety about the economy generally and this more emotional anxiety
about the idea of America in decline.

The challenge for President Obama in that regard is that as of yet,
the economy is not yet in a place he can just go out and say something like
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: In 1980, we asked the people of America are you better off
than you were four years ago? Well, the people answered then by choosing
us to bring about a change. We have every reason now, four years later, to
ask that same question again for we have made a change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Are you better off than you were four years ago? If President
Obama asked that question today, the answer for most Americans probably is
yes. But it is a much more ambivalent, equivocal yes than it would have
been in 1984.

That year, Ronald Reagan also ran his famed "Morning in America" ad
campaign, which touted the fact that the economic picture in the country
had improved since he took office. The jobs picture was better, inflation
was down, things were according to Reagan, looking up.

As Barack Obama heads in his reelection bout, things are without a
doubt much, much better than they have been. And much, much better, much,
much better than they could have been.

So how do you turn much better than they have been into something that
packs the rhetorical force that "Morning in America" packed back in 1984?
How do you convey the feeling that things are getting better into an
effective message? It is that central rhetorical problem that none other
than Dirty Harry himself, Mr. I`ve-never-voted-for-a-Democrat-for-
president-in-my-life, seems to have solved for President Obama.

By now, you have probably seen the Clint Eastwood Chrysler ad that
aired during the Super Bowl last night, right? It was an ad that focused
on the success of the auto bailout specifically, but may have served as an
update to Ronald Reagan`s "Morning in America" as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EASTWOOD: It`s halftime, both teams are in their locker room
discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half. It`s
halftime in America, too. People are out of work and they are hurting.
And they are all wondering what they will do to make a comeback. And we`re
all scared because this isn`t the game.

But people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost
lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting
again.

Because that`s what we do. We find a way through tough times, if we
can`t find a way, we`ll make one.

All that matters now is what`s ahead. How do we come from behind?
How do we come together? And how do we win?

Detroit is showing us it can be done. And what`s true about them is
true about all of us. This country can`t be knocked out in one punch, we
get right back up again and when we do, the world is going to hear the roar
of our engines.

Yes, it`s halftime in America. And our second half is about to begin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: I`m a bit of a sucker, it`s halftime in America. That slogan,
the guttural feeling that slogan taps into captures something I think the
Obama team has been attempting with mixed results to project. The idea of
it`s halftime in America is an idea we are now mid-way through a project of
national reconstruction, that there`s promise and possibility just ahead
and we have survived and come through the worst.

That ad I think more than anything else managed to project succinctly
a theme the Obama campaign has been struggling their way towards. Again,
that ad is about the auto bailout specifically, a specific piece of policy
the president pushed through. The reason the auto bailout is so important,
is because of all the recovery policies that were put into effect by
President Obama, that`s probably the one that has most directly and visibly
borne fruit.

It is difficult to prove to people that without the stimulus package,
things would have been worse though nearly every serious economic analysis
says just that. But to say to people that G.M. is now the number one car
company in the world again, because of what we did as a country, that is a
powerful message. It`s particularly useful because none other than Mitt
Romney was himself so adamantly against it.

If you doubt the potential effectiveness of this message, you doubt
its political potency, all you have to do is look at the conservative
backlash against the Clint Eastwood ad today. Karl Rove took to FOX News
to announce he was, quote, "offended by the halftime in America ad."

"The Weekly Standard" went to great pains to report that Clint
Eastwood`s Detroit come back ad was actually filmed in New Orleans and L.A.

And "The National Review" warned the underlying message we should be
pulling together represents, quote, "the death knell of a democratic
culture."

All this ink was spilled on the right today over an ad. Super Bowl ad
from a conservative icon that may well have provided the rhetorical answer
team Obama has been in search of.

Joining us now is NBC News presidential historian, Michael Beschloss.

Michael, it`s good to see you. Thanks for being here.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thanks, Chris.
Delighted.

HAYES: Michael, what was your impression -- what was your impression
of the ad?

BESCHLOSS: I guess I`m in a minority. I thought it was probably
helpful to Obama, but not anywhere near the sort of Obama created
commercial that other people saw. I mean, you look at that "Morning in
America" commercial that Reagan had in `84, you know, with all sorts of
happy people going back to work, this was a commercial yesterday that said
people are scared and they are hurting.

That`s not exactly something that the White House I think would have
manufactured had it had the chance to do it.

HAYES: Yes, no. I mean, I think that`s clearly right, although a
number of people around the president tweeted their approval of it, and
gave it shout outs.

BESCHLOSS: Sure.

HAYES: And I think what`s interesting though is the underlying
economic conditions, do you present this challenge to the president because
if six months from now, you and I are having this conversation and we`ve
had six months of half a million jobs being created a month, well then the
president can basically just run "Morning in America" and literally get up
in the convention center and say, are you better off now than you were four
years ago?

BESCHLOSS: Absolutely.

HAYES: And, you know, that`s easy. And you probably don`t need to
pay someone a lot of money to figure out what your message is. But --

BESCHLOSS: But, you know, something else there, Chris.

HAYES: Yes?

BESCHLOSS: You know, we remember "Morning in America" as representing
Reagan`s America, everything was wonderful. You know, that year
unemployment was over 7 percent. And it was very artfully done. You know,
more people went to work this morning it said than ever before in our
history. That was a really weaselly way of saying that we still got a lot
people jobless.

HAYES: Right. The population -- baking the population growth into
your campaign ad.

BESCHLOSS: Right, exactly. That was it.

HAYES: But they do have this challenge, right, which is, on the one
hand, you can`t be seen as out of touch, right? You cannot -- you
fundamentally cannot project a rosy message. I mean, they tried that, the
Tim Geithner op-ed, welcome to recovery that now looks like a tremendous
political miscalculation. You can`t be --

BESCHLOSS: Elder George Bush in 1992 tried to do that.

HAYES: Exactly, but you can`t be that on the one hand, and yet you
can`t been too rosy about it, but you also can`t be dour, how do you thread
the needle?

BESCHLOSS: It`s tough. But, you know, couple of presidents have done
that. Reagan is the obvious example where talking about, but FDR even
better because 1936, Roosevelt was running for reelection, unemployment was
almost 17 percent. Now, it`s 25 percent four years earlier, and actually,
Roosevelt did say, are you better off? That`s where Reagan got the line.

But what Roosevelt said was the unemployment is too high, things are
getting better and it`s because of our policies. And the key thing he said
was why would we ever give things back to the people who created the mess
was thrust in our lap in 1932? Meaning the Republicans.

Same thing that Reagan said in `84. The end of that "Morning in
America" commercial, announcer says where would we go back where we were
just four short years ago? Essentially, Walter Mondale would return you to
the policies of Jimmy Carter.

So, my guess is we will see a lot of the same things said by Barack
Obama this year.

HAYES: It`s so fascinating, we did -- we were doing a world count of
the amount of times President Bush, the former George W. Bush has been
mentioned in Republican debates and he`s almost entirely written out.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: I think that`s obviously intentional because it blunts
precisely that rhetorical approach.

Michael Beschloss, presidential historian for NBC -- thank you so much
for your time. I really appreciate it.

BESCHLOSS: Pleasure, Chris. Be well.

HAYES: At the opposite end of the success spectrum is conservative
attack ad so mind-blowingly offensive I thought it was a put on. That epic
fail is next.

Also ahead, the casino billionaire who may be deciding our next
president, plus the best new thing in the world.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Mitt Romney rolled to another win this weekend, this time in
Nevada. The most personally hurtful poll I`ve ever heard of has some bad
news for him. That`s just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: There`s another Super Bowl ad in the news today. Perhaps you
have seen. It`s gotten quite a bit of media attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spend-it-now.
Debbie spent so much American money, you borrow more and more, from us.
Your economy gets very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs.
Thank you, Debbie Spend-it-now.

PETER HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN SENATE CANDIDATE: I think this race for
U.S. Senate is Debbie Spend-it-now and I`m Pete Spend-it-not.

I`m Pete Spend-it-not Hoekstra and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I`m kind of sorry that we had to play that. We were thinking
about some way of talking about the ad without actually playing it, and we
couldn`t come up with a good answer.

The reason I didn`t want to play it it`s obvious what Pete Hoekstra is
doing here, he`s trolling the media. If you`re not familiar with the word
"trolling," it is Internet vernacular when someone intentionally says
something offensive or sensationalistic in order to attract attention. And
so far, I must say, it is working.

The ad was created by the master of outrage-inducing, free media-
generating Republican ad, a guy named Fred Davis. He created ads for the
likes of Christine O`Donnell and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

This one is pretty blatantly racist. And so, people are saying it`s
pretty blatantly racist, which gives Pete Hoekstra a chance to go on TV and
refuse to apologize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOEKSTRA: I`m not apologizing for this ad at all. I think it clearly
drives the message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: And of course talk more about his attacks on the Democratic
incumbent he`s trying to challenge for a Senate seat in Michigan, Debbie
Stabenow, before a national audience. The ad itself only ran in Michigan.

Hoekstra is also trying to raise money from the ad outrange. His
campaign sent out this fundraising e-mail today, quote, "liberals are doing
what they always do, crying racism," yada, yada, yada.

But the ad, aside from its tone and the predictable and warranted
outrage its attracting also makes some substantive claims, which are every
bit as offensive in their untruthfulness. The core of the ad`s argument is
that U.S. deficits redistribute power from America to China. And the
mechanism by which it does that is that China purchases American treasury
bonds which are the means we use to fund American deficit.

When we have a gap between our tax revenue and our spending, we have
to make that up with debt. The instrument of that debt is a U.S. Treasury
bond and China -- scary China -- is buying up all that debt.

That notion, take away the offensive way it`s couched in Hoekstra`s
ad, that scary China owns America notion is almost a consensus idea in
American politics. It is absolutely everywhere. It`s also become a
prominent theme in many, many political ads.

This is an ad put out by the vague front group conservative not for
profit group Citizens Against Government Waste. It`s set in Beijing, in
2030. Be very afraid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America tried to spend and tax itself out of a
great recession. Enormous so-called "stimulus" spending, massive changes
to health care, government takeovers of private industries and crushing
debt. Of course, we owned most of their debt. So, now they work for us!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: So, that notion of a scary China has become an accepted truth
in American politics.

The problem is that it`s based on a fundamental misunderstanding of
just who owns American debt.

Based on all of this, what percentage of American debt would you say
China owns? I`ll do my best Ron Paul appeal (ph) here, is it 50 percent,
60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent, could it be that China in fact owns
every last piece of our debt?

To the pie chart. The answer is roughly 8 percent. It`s not nothing.
China is the foreign country that owns the most of American debt but it`s
still 8 percent. In fact, China is just barely ahead of Japan, which owns
6.9 percent of our debt, and who used to stand in as the scary Asian
nation, challenging American supremacy when I was a teenager

U.K. owns the next biggest chunk.

The majority of American debt is owned by drum, roll please,
Americans. Partly in the form of the Social Security trust fund. So, it
is just not the case that America is in hock to China.

But let`s say for the sake of argument and because we are charitable
here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, it is indeed the case that American
deficits contribute to American decline, which is the theme of the Hoekstra
ad against Debbie Stabenow, who he has dubbed Spend-it-now, championing
himself as Spend-it-not.

If that is the case, then you have to ask: who has been contributing
to the rising deficits, that if you believe Hoekstra`s own rhetoric, has so
debilitated America.

Pete Hoekstra was a member of Congress between 1993 and 2010, 17
years. And he voted for the Medicare Part D plan in 2003, which increased
the deficit by at least $375 billion, creating a new social insurance
program that extends out into perpetuity with no way to pay for it. He
voted for the Bush tax cuts, not just round one but also round two, which
increased the deficit by at least $1 trillion. He voted for the Iraq war,
all of which was funded by deficit spending, total cost, roughly $800
billion, almost another $1 trillion added dollars in deficit spending.

So, if anyone, I think our fictitious Chinese adversaries should be
thanking him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: It`s kind of a good news/bad news day for Mitt Romney. Mr.
Romney begins the week with three trends shaping up around him, one is
actually quite promising for his campaign, the other two are just plain
worrisome. So, we will start with the good news.

The promising trend for Mitt Romney is this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Thanks you, guys, wow. What a great showing. Thank you,
Nevada.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: After winning the Nevada caucus by nearly 30 points, Mitt
Romney appears to be on a winning trend. Mr. Romney has now, for the first
time, won two contests in a row, that has taken five to get there, but he`s
now won two in a row. After a big convincing win in Florida, he had
another big convincing win in Nevada over the weekend. And the odds of him
being the nominee have jumped accordingly.

In the days following his big loss in South Carolina, the predictions
market Intrade showed his chances of becoming the nominee dropping almost
20 points, from 92 percent to 70 percent. Today, fresh off his second in a
row victory in Nevada, Intrade has Mitt Romney back up at almost 87
percent.

But, funny thing about that Nevada victory, while he did absolutely
crush Newt Gingrich, not to mention Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney
lost to another candidate. In this year`s Nevada caucuses, Mitt Romney
lost to Mitt Romney circa 2008. In 2008, the last time Mitt Romney ran for
president, he got more than 22,000 votes in Nevada, just over 51 percent.
This year, he got about 16,000 votes in Nevada, 50 percent.

And that is part of a broader worrying trend for both Mitt Romney
specifically and the Republicans generally. Lower turn out among
Republicans in their primaries and caucuses this time around.

If you look just at self-identifying Republicans in the exit polls,
here`s what`s been happening to turn out in Republican contests. Here`s
Iowa, with 2008 Republican turn out on the left, and this year on the
right, an 11 percent drop off. In New Hampshire, here`s 2008 compared to
this year, numbers drop 15 percent.

The only real bright spot in terms of turnout for Republican is South
Carolina, where turn out did go up by 20 percent. But in Florida, return
to the downward trend, turn out among self-identified Republicans was down
16 percent this year, compared with 2008.

Of course the vaunted enthusiasm gap was invoked again and again in
2010 as the key to Republican victory. So it looks to be a drop in
Republican turn out from 2008 is worrying trend number one.

The second worrying trend is the polling on his favorability and
likability. In one of those brutal and hurtful polling questions I have
ever seen, voters were asked, as they get to know Mitt Romney whether they
liked him more or less. By more than 2-to-1, people said the more they got
to know Mitt Romney, the less they like him -- 52 percent said they are
liking Mitt Romney less as the nomination battle plays out. Even if you
only ask Republicans or people who say they lean Republican, more people
say they like Mitt Romney less, the more they get to know him, than the
other way around.

Of course the more common measure of likability is favorability. The
trend on that for Mitt Romney is pretty grim indeed. Here`s "Talking
Points Memo" poll tracker on unfavorability, which is skyrocketing as you
can see. The latest number from Public Policy Polling has Mitt Romney`s
unfavorability at 47 percent.

So, good news for Mitt Romney, he`s winning. Bad news for Mitt
Romney, he`s also losing to himself from four years ago. People like him
less and less. Newt Gingrich has threatened to stick around and say mean
things about him until the nominating convention in August. And August is
six months away.

Joining us now, Celinda Lake, Democratic pollster and strategist.

Celinda, thanks for being here.

CELINDA LAKE, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: I guess the first quest is about how well can we use previous
turnout in an open primary to extrapolate forward and predict what turnout
is looking like in the general? Is that -- is that a dodgy metric for us
to be using, or does that actually have some validity?

LAKE: Well, it has some validity and particularly when you look at
the patterns underneath. First of all, the fact you have it in state after
state after state, and in fact, Romney does better the lower the turnout.

And then if you look at who is not showing up to vote, the people who
aren`t show up to vote are born again Christian voters who have a real
problem with Mitt Romney. They don`t think he`s a good conservative. They
don`t -- they worry about his religion. That bodes real trouble for the
election in the fall, and a real opportunity for Democrats who in the
inverse are getting more enthusiastic about their nominee.

HAYES: I thought it was very interesting that to the point you just
made that South Carolina was the one place where turnout increased
markedly, and it was the place where Romney got whooped.

LAKE: Right.

HAYES: And where there was the most sort of traditional Tea Party
grassroots activism behind the outcome.

LAKE: Right, and in fact, Mitt Romney is only getting even in states
he`s winning a quarter of the Tea Party vote and a quarter of the born
again Christian vote. He`s running behind or tied with Santorum and behind
Newt Gingrich.

There are core elements of the Republican base that are very, very
disgruntled with this ticket.

And then when you get to general election voters, you have someone
who`s winning and these aren`t just Newt Gingrich-inflicted problems, these
are Mitt Romney-inflicted problems. Those negatives are going up because
of what Mitt Romney is saying about Mitt Romney.

HAYES: Yes, I have been actually advised, frankly, how much his
unfavorability ratings have sky rocketed and how negative public opinion
turning towards him personally.

One of the most robust polling results of President Obama`s tenure is
how strong his personal favorability remains despite whatever economic
situation we`re having.

How important is that metric, favorability, how you feel about the
person who is standing in front of you there in a suit, at a microphone,
running for president when you get to election day?

LAKE: It matters a lot. And not only is Mitt Romney failing on the
personal likeability, but he`s failing on the guy you want to sit down who
would understand your life. It`s what we call in the Democratic Party the
have a beer with the guy test.

Mitt Romney by his own words and deeds, just seems completely out of
touch with what is going on for average people -- when you make bets for
$10,000, when you think income that is the value of people`s houses, when
you have offshore accounts, and it`s on and on and on, you pay a lower
percentage for your taxes than the average secretary in the United States -
- I mean, honestly, this man is the perfect candidate as a poster child for
the 99 percent to 1 percent message. And he`s inflicting these wounds on
himself.

And then you go and get Donald Trump`s endorsement at a casino -- most
independent voters usually don`t even pay attention to these races. But
Mitt Romney is drawing attention to himself and it`s all negative.

HAYES: I thought it was interesting in some of the more recent
polling that`s happened, self-described moderates have moved back toward
President Obama.

LAKE: That`s right.

HAYES: And part of that, I think, is probably the result of the
recent good economic news --

LAKE: Right.

HAYES: -- which we sort of have to disaggregate from favorability.

But do you think -- how much do you think the president is someone who
is now so known to the American people that whatever people think about
him, the idea of attacking him is somehow other, which seems part of what
the Republican message has been, no longer resonates?

LAKE: It doesn`t resonate, and the character attacks don`t resonate.
And frankly, Mitt Romney is the other, the guy who is kind of strange and
the guy who keeps -- what`s amazing for me, a very polished candidate keeps
shooting himself in the foot.

HAYES: With a polished bullet.

LAKE: That`s right.

HAYES: Celinda Lake, Democratic pollster and strategist -- thanks so
much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

LAKE: Thank you.

HAYES: There is one completely hilarious Super Bowl ad you almost
certainly didn`t see last night. Now, that I`ve seen it, it`s my solemn
duty to share it with you for the lulls. The best new thing in the world
is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: If you have been following the 2012 presidential race at all
lately, you probably heard of a man named Sheldon Adelson by now. Mr.
Adelson is a Las Vegas tycoon, a casino billionaire with estimated personal
fortune of $21.5 billion, more or less. Not counting what`s in the couch
cushions at home or under the slot machines at work.

He is one of the richest men in the country. He made news most
recently writing a single very large check to the super PAC that supports
Newt Gingrich, 5 million bucks, to elect Newt Gingrich president of the
United States. That beneficence was followed by another very large check
to the super PAC that supports Newt Gingrich, this one also for 5 million
bucks, only it came from Mr. Adelson`s wife, Miriam Adelson.

The Adelson support helped Newt Gingrich get back into the game and
win South Carolina last month, which seemed like it might scramble the
entire race. At least until Mitt Romney whooped Gingrich something fierce
in Florida last week, his double digit win re-establishing the
establishment.

This weekend the fight for the Republican nomination pulled into
Sheldon Adelson`s backyard with the Nevada Republican caucuses.

Now, Sheldon Adelson and billions are in no way the kind of political
force that Nevada Republicans are prepared to alienate. He`s a big deal.

This year, Nevada Republicans decided to hold a special evening
caucus, so people who could not vote during the day for religious reasons
because they are orthodox Jews or Seventh Day Adventists honoring the
Sabbath. They held that special caucus in a building named for, none other
than, Sheldon Adelson, with the family name right on the front.

Result was kind of a zoo, with Ron Paul supporters showing up and
making a ruckus, they called the proceedings a felonious, and
unconstitutional sham. And then they whooped Sheldon Adelson`s candidate
right in Sheldon Adelson`s building.

Ron Paul won the special caucus in a walk. Newt Gingrich nearly
caught Mitt Romney for second.

You know, in the overall caucus, Mitt Romney won by a lot.

Now, it may seem weird to hold a Democratic exercise, like a special
caucus, in a building that honors a single person who so happens to be
almost single-handedly, personally propping up one of the candidates on the
ballot in the caucus.

But in another way, Nevada`s special caucus in the school with Mr.
Adelson name on the front is a perfect microcosm for our post-Citizens
United world. It`s the billionaire`s country, we`re just voting in it.

Even as he appeared to be losing his bet on Newt Gingrich, Mr. Adelson
continued throwing his weight around. "New York Times" reported on
Saturday that Mitt Romney`s campaign has been reaching out to Mr. Adelson,
aware that he could keep Newt Gingrich in the race all the way to the
convention, if he decides that looks like fun.

For the Adelson`s to write a $10 million check is like someone worth
$21,000 writing a check for 10 bucks. It`s like going to the movies. And
the Newt Gingrich campaign is as entertaining as any future film you now
can find screening in America. You would pay 10 bucks to keep this going.

In this post-Citizens United election, the Mitt Romney people now find
themselves in a situation shared by every political campaign in the
country, having to assiduously massage the ego of a billionaire. Sheldon
Adelson reportedly assured the Romney campaign that in the end, he will
open up his checkbook for Romney, too, which is not to say that you should
in any way be very concerned about political fundraising for Mitt Romney,
not at all.

After the fourth quarter reports were filed last week, but you can see
the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney raised $30 million last year, 98
percent in donations of at least $25,000. You don`t need many donors when
they are giving a million dollars apiece, the PAC got of those last year.

If Mitt Romney goes the distance, you can look for Sheldon Adelson`s
name somewhere on this list a few months from now.

The caucus and the building named for Sheldon Adelson this weekend may
have been a setback for Sheldon Adelson, but we`re basically all caucusing
in his house, this fall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: George W. Bush and THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff have
something in common. They both pride themselves on coming up with
nicknames for people. They can be flattering. For example, lamb chop.
That`s yours truly.

But the best RACHEL MADDOW SHOW nickname of all time was given to
Robert Ford, this guy, the American ambassador to Syria. Back in
September, this show gave Mr. Ford the nickname "ambadassador". The
ambadassador he really seriously no joke earned that nickname.

Over the summer, President Obama called on the president of Syria to
step down. The Syrians were not pleased. They told the ambadassador that
he needed to ask permission to order to leave the capital. Instead, he
went to the rest of the city of Hama where anti-government protesters
greeted him with rose petals and actually olive branches, not
metaphorically oil branches, real olive branches.

And the U.S. and French embassies were attacked by regime loyalists.
So too was the ambadassador`s house. The ambadassador also went to observe
a peaceful protest by lawyers at the Syrian bar association, a pro-
government demonstrator attacked him and the whole thing was caught on
tape.

In early September, the ambadassador went to the funeral of a human
rights activist who died while in the custody of Syrian security forces.
An hour after that funeral, security forces trashed the place.

Later that month, while driving through the Syrian capital to meet
with an opposition leader, government loyalists attacked his convoy. They
reportedly threw eggs and tomatoes at him and then tried to break into the
building his meeting was being held.

And yet Robert Ford stayed. He stayed in Syria for another month
after that attack. State Department finally pulled him out of Syria when
the media state-run media started really targeting him. He was home in the
U.S. for about six weeks and then went back to Damascus.

Robert Ford is one tough cookie, which is how you know that things in
Syria are again, really, really, really bad.

Today, the United States announced it has completely shut down the
embassy in Syria. Every single staffer has left, including the
ambadassador.

Since Friday, Syrian opposition leaders say the government has killed
more than 300 civilians in the city that`s become the epicenter of this
deadly crackdown. One thing the Syrian government has been able to achieve
with almost complete success is a foreign media blackout. They`ve kept all
Western journalists out of the country -- well, almost all.

The BBC reports the violence is so bad in one city that people can`t
even safely bury their dead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: The shelling is constant now, we`re hearing impacts every
few seconds. And in reply, you can also hear a little bit of Kalashnikov
fire. It`s a pretty futile gesture.

REPORTER: They`re certainly paying the price. The shroud is for a 7-
year-old girl. They carefully write her name, (INAUDIBLE).

Like all the dead here, she must be buried in darkness. Daytime is
too dangerous. There is no family, no prayers, and little dignity. They
have to hurry.

Even now. they are attacked. There will many more such desperate and
lonely burials.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The Syrian regime`s violence and indiscriminate attacks today
seem particularly bold. Russia and China are partially to blame.

Over the weekend, they vetoed a United Nations Security Council
resolution that called on the Syrian president to step down, to which
American`s ambassador responded with nothing short of indignation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The fact that Russia and
China chose to align themselves with a dictator who is on his last legs
rather than the people of Syria, rather than the people of the Middle East,
and rather than the principle views of the rest of the international
community was indeed disgusting and shameful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining us now, Josh Rogin, writer of "Foreign Policy
Magazine`s" "The Cable" blog.

Josh, thanks for talking to us tonight.

JOSH ROGIN, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Josh, the vote that happened over the weekend with the
Security Council that prompted that condemnation from Susan Rice, what is
your understanding of why that vote went down the way it did, and what does
it mean for what the next step is in regards to both the U.S. and the
international communities` policy on Syria?

ROGIN: Sure. The U.S. and it`s allies worked for weeks to try to
satisfy Russian and Chinese concerns about the draft resolution, which was
part forth by Morocco and the Arab League. They watered it down pretty
well. And at the last moment, Russia and China still had no intention of
going along with it.

I was in Munich this weekend with Hillary Clinton, and the Russian
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. And Lavrov said very clearly, he said, we
don`t believe it`s the U.N.`s role to intervene internally in other
countries. What he didn`t say is that Russia is standing by Syria both
because Syria is a major arms buyer of Russian equipment and also because
Russia seeks to counter U.S. and Western influence in the Middle East.

But the bottom line is that Russia never had had any intention of
supporting a call for Assad to step down, and it played out exactly the way
we expected.

So, now, that the United Nations Security Council is, quote-unquote,
"neutered" as Secretary Clinton said, the action moves to sort of regional
approaches, or unilateral approaches, and sanctions.

And then the debate begins over what do we do next? Do we aid the
Syrian opposition? Do we give them humanitarian assistance? Do we provide
buffer zones so they`re safe?

And all these questions have not been answered, and that`s what the
administration is working on right now.

HAYES: There`s also, I think, some concerns about the broader
stability of Syria, just in terms of the degree to which it will hold
together through this. I mean, there`s a big sectarian divide between the
majority of the country and the Assad ruling clique and concerns that what
we`re see is the beginning of a genuine and terrifying civil war.

How worrisome -- how worried are you about that?

ROGIN: I think the civil war is erupting and beginning right now, and
that`s something that U.S. officials are starting to acknowledge
reluctantly, because it really is not just a nightmare scenario for the
people of Syria, but the people of the region as well. I mean, they always
say is Syria is not Libya. Libya was sort of self-contained, and Syria,
the violence has a potential of spreading to all sorts of different
countries. So, that`s real.

Now, what that means is, the Assad regime, as they are protected by
Russia and China for the time being, feels an imperative. They feel
pressure, and that`s causing them to want to change factions on the ground
by increasing violence and to try to end this thing before they`re forced
out one way or the other.

So, what they`ve done is unleashed a full-out assault on the city of
Homs and suburbs of Damascus and other places. And this is causing a
reaction among Syrian free army, and other opposition groups. And it`s
just escalating and it`s getting worse and worse, and the international
community is simply paralyzed. This is sort of the worst case scenario all
the way around.

HAYES: Since I have you here, Josh. I want to turn to one more piece
of news out of the region today which struck as important. In Egypt, the
government is going to file charges against 19 Americans who work for
nonprofit groups.

Does the U.S. want to try and fight those charges publicly to make a
point or negotiations for the release? What does it say about the
relationship of the U.S. government right now and the SCAF, which is the
ruling entity in Egypt at the moment?

ROGIN: Sure. So, these are all related issues because this is all
part of one thing -- the Arab spring, and the revolution in the Arab world
where people are demanding more sovereignty. And the U.S. is trying to
shift its focus from core interest to values of human rights and democracy
and popular votes. And this is not going well in Egypt.

And the Egyptian government is clinging onto power. They`re making
the American aid groups that they`re attacking and harassing the villains
in this scenario for their own domestic and political purposes. And it`s
ruining the U.S./Egypt relationship.

The Obama administration is very worried about this, and they have no
solution. And as long as Egypt remains in turmoil, they`ll continue to
vilify the U.S. and these aid workers who are totally innocent and the
relationship will continue to deteriorate.

HAYES: You`re just a font of good news today, Josh Rogin, writer for
"Foreign Policy" magazine`s "The Cable" blog. Thanks so much for talking
with us. Appreciate it.

ROGIN: Anytime.

HAYES: Right after this show, on "THE LAST WORD" -- the fallout from
the Planned Parenthood funding controversy continues. Lawrence O`Donnell
has the very latest. Don`t miss that.

And here, the cool refreshing taste of the best new thing in the world
is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: The most talked about thing in the news today, for better or
worse, was the Clint Eastwood ad for Chrysler, that premiered during last
night`s Super Bowl. It was a sterling example of one of the main Super
Bowl ad genres superbly executed -- big, epic, thundering homages to
American greatness, bigness, grandness, toughness.

The other two main categories of the Super Bowl ads -- brain-dead
fables about the fundamental and hilarious difference between bros and
chicks, and zany ads where the unexpected happens, a concert breaks out in
the street, animals do silly things, babies talk.

What there isn`t a ton of generally is genuine and successful self-
satire, which is why the best new thing in the world today is a different
take on the same thundering themes exhibited in the Clint Eastwood ad -- a
different Super Bowl ad for an American beer with a big American movie
star. It was only shown on one station in Nebraska during the game, which
is why for the rest of us, this use of America`s grandest advertising stage
is the best new thing in the world today.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

HAYES: Will Ferrell`s appearance is an automatic candidate for the
best new thing in the world today, doing four Super Bowl ads, what Stephen
Colbert has done for campaign fundraising makes Will Ferrell in his latest
spot for Old Milwaukee the best thing in the world today.

That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow.

Don`t forget, you can watch me Saturdays at 7:00 a.m. and Sundays at
8:00 on my show, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES."

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.

Have a great night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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